From an Interview done by Don Bailey on May 21, 2008. It was transcribed and annotated (highlighted) by James H. Ruppe
Al Lancaster is a son of Willie Lancaster and Odie Lancaster. The 1910 Census lists the Lancaster family as living on North Main Street, House No. 230. Apparently the house was shared with another family, Weldon & Almedia Padgett, whose ages were 25 and 22, with no children. (The sharing of houses was not unusual in the beginning of Cliffside; houses were still being built to accommodate the growing needs of the workforce. Almedia Bates Padgett was the sister of Naomie Odie Bates Lancaster.)
In 1910 the Lancaster family numbered three. Willie Lancaster Age 25, Wife; Naomie Lancaster, age 22 and Son; William J. (This could have been William Jesse Lancaster, 1 and ½ years old. The Cliffside Cemetery lists Odie B. Lancaster, 9/7/1887- 1/26/1971 and William H. Lancaster 5/20/1885-10/15/1918. Naomie was Mrs. Lancaster’s given first name and Odie, the name she was known by, was her second name.)
Al Lancaster states that his family, including his grandfather, were charter members of the Cliffside Baptist Church. In church records, a list of the 1903 charter members includes A.D. Lancaster, A.G. Lancaster, Willie Lancaster, Mrs. Odie Lancaster and Miss Lily Bell Lancaster.
When Al Lancaster’s father died during the flu epidemic of 1917-18, his mother Odie was left with five children and was expecting another child. Two daughters died during the epidemic and the unborn child did not survive birth. Mr. Lancaster recalls that the daughters died during the epidemic, but he is not certain their deaths were from influenza. The deaths of her husband and children left Al’s mother with three remaining children, Jessie, the oldest; Meredith, the only remaining daughter; and Al, the youngest son.
Odie Bates Lancaster, age 21, and her sister Almedia Bates Padgett. 1908.
The childbirth left Mrs. Lancaster unable to walk, and for a time the family lived with an aunt in South Carolina. Mrs. Lancaster was told by the doctor she would never be able to walk again, but with self-determination she willed herself to exercise and walk, just a little at first, and through this repetitive rehabilitation exercise she was able to walk well enough to return to work. The family then returned to Cliffside and lived approximately a quarter of a mile from the mill. Al remembers seeing his mother walking toward their home in the afternoons after a full 12 hour shift, and by the time she got near the house she was so exhausted she could barely walk.
His parents were charter members of the Cliffside Baptist Church and the family attended the first wooden church building on North Main Street, approximately ¾ of a mile north of the second church building. He remembers very little about the first building, but remembers playing basketball there in his high school days. He remembers the nuisances of the building which could be called the “home court advantage.” Mr. Lancaster explains that the section of the building where the choir was once seated tended to interfere with shots at the basket, and the local team soon learned to use this feature to their advantage.
Mr. Lancaster does remember the wooden school building which was next door to the original Baptist church building. As a pre-schooler he sometimes went to the school with his older brother and sister and sat in on their classes. One of the teachers was the intractable Annabel Logan, but he remembers very little about her. (Miss Logan was from Rutherfordton; she taught school in Cliffside for several decades.) He also remembers a later time when Clyde Erwin and his brother Charles taught at Cliffside, with Clyde as the Principal, and Charles as a teacher. (Clyde would become the County Superintendent and later the State Superintendent of Schools. Charles would leave Cliffside and teach in Forest City at the Cool Springs High School. Clyde married Hal and Yates Miller’s sister Evelyn from Waco, N.C., and both the Miller Brothers moved to Cliffside.)
When Al was eight years old (approximately 1924) the First Baptist Church began the building of its first brick church. After it was finished, his brother and another young man became custodians for the church, and Al remembers helping them clean the church.
During the depression, Harry Ingram, who had married Al’s sister Meredith, got a job at Kendall Mills in Paw Creek. Odie and her two sons moved there to live with Meredith and Harry. Al’s mother and possibly his brother Jessie got a job in the same mill. They enjoyed steady work and Al attended school at Paw Creek. He didn’t especially like going to school there, however, and when he became fourteen (the age after which school attendance was not required) he decided to drop out of school. This would have been approximately 1930. His mother didn’t want him to drop out, and since Al had enjoyed school at Cliffside, she made the decision to move the family back there. (Paw Creek is now part of Charlotte. It was once located between that city and Mount Holly. The first mill located there was the Thrift Mill, which later became part of the Kendall Mills Group).
These were hard times. Back in Cliffside, Mrs. Lancaster’s job in the mill was sporadic with long stretches of time when she had no work. Al recalls the kindness of one local merchant on the outskirts of town, Tab Green, who supplied them with staples− fat back, lard, sugar and flour− and other items on a lenient credit basis. Al said his mother would order groceries on Saturday morning and they would be delivered that afternoon. Without Green’s kindness Al doesn’t see how they would have gotten by. (Tab Green’s store was located on 221A beyond River Street in the store building we remember as being this side of the pool room and R. R. Scruggs’ store. Tab’s daughter was Mary Frances who married Marvin Sparks. The Sparks operated several business ventures from there, one of which was a Five and Dime Store. The couple had two children, Harolyn and Wilton. [In the 1920’s there were advertisements in the Sun for a Green Motor Company of Cliffside, selling Star automobiles.]
Al fondly remembers his remaining school days in Cliffside. He had broken his collarbone previously, then re-injured it trying to play football and had to give that up. Instead, he joined in the cheerleading squad. And he did play basketball and baseball. But in his senior year he had to curtail those sports, when he went to school by day, and worked in the mill at night. In the card room he ran a “set of cards,” multiple carding machines that would comb cotton. Dudley Brown (father of Esper and Robert Brown) was his supervisor. (In carding machine would comb the cotton into a twist giving it continuity and producing loosely twisted cotton fibers called “roping”, referring to its diameter and plat which resembled that of a rope. The machine would coil the roping into large cans to use in the next process. The roping would then be fed to the twisters via the cans and twisted many times further, compacting the fibers into yarn that had been reduced in size to only a small fraction of that of the carded roping).